NEWS - 2023/03/08

Interview with Margarita Martínez Díaz – Assistant Professor at the Civil Engineering School of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC)

  1. Why is it important to talk about gender perspective in mobility?

Introducing the gender perspective in mobility, as well as any other perspective (e.g. age perspective or socioeconomic perspective) is crucial so that the transportation offer is inclusive and everyone has the same opportunities and facilities to move and travel. We generally move because we want to make an activity at the destination, namely work, visit the doctor, go shopping, etc. Having an adequate transport offer should therefore be seen as a right. This is, it is necessary to include the gender perspective as a matter of rights and equity. Of justice.

  1. What are the differences and similarities between mobility needs according to gender?

Mobility patterns between men and women are usually different. When we say this, we always speak in general, on average. Most women make shorter, multimodal trips and move more frequently than men in off-peak hours, while men tend to make long-distance trips, using a single mode of transport, and in the morning and evening peak hours. Behind these different patterns, there are varied factors. For example, the place where people live, with its particular location of activities and its available transportation offer. Additionally, socio-economic factors play a key role. For example, 40% of the trips made in the world have the goal of performing tasks related to household maintenance, namely picking up children or shopping. And of this 40%, 80% are done by women. Other data show that in a family unit, if there is only one private vehicle, this vehicle is generally used by the person with the highest salary. And this is mostly the man.  Additionally, women have their own preferences. Although this is changing, they are usually not so eager to buy the latest car or to use the latest mobility-related technological innovation. They prefer sustainable modes of transport.

There are also some issues genuinely related to gender and particularly to women’s hormonal drivers, to some extent shaped by society. For example, women have a more demanding safety perception. This is, they try to avoid risks, which also conditions their mobility patterns. For instance, linked to this perception, most women avoid cycling if there are no segregated lanes, and are less willing than men to use emerging modes of transportation, at least as early adopters. Finally, another serious issue is the harassment suffered by women during their trips, both on-board or in the street. Although the most serious aggressions are more frequent in less culturally developed countries with more patriarchal structures, unfortunately, undesirable behaviors still occur in our surroundings as well. Some women do not use public transport at night out of fear. And those who cannot afford to own a car or pay for a taxi will, for example, refuse to stay for a business dinner. This is a clear example of unequal opportunities and women being conditioned.

From the field of transport engineering, our aim must be the configuration of an inclusive and equitable transportation offer. Because equality, that is, offering both men and women the same mobility resources is not the same as equity. Needs are different depending on gender (and this also applies to non-binary people, etc.) and a really good transportation offer should cover all of them.

  1. Are there women in decision-making positions in the mobility sector?

Fortunately, we are seeing more and more women in positions of power in the field of mobility. This also depends on the place we are talking about but, in general terms, the presence of women in these fields is much higher in Spain since 2010. This is normal because it is also true that quite a few years ago almost no woman was interested in transport engineering or related fields. It is a matter of the evolution of women’s interests and possibilities. Today, the situation is better, but there is still work to be done. According to the Gender Equality Index of the European Union, covering not only the mobility sphere but many more, only 10% of CEOs in large corporations are women, and there is only a 30% of women in decision-making positions. Fortunately, little by little, the number of female leaders increases. We witnessed this during the meetups and workshops that we organized within the Women in Urban Mobility project. We have invited outstanding women who are role models in the sector, such as the director of Puertos del Estado, the director of the Barcelona airport, the Deputy Mayors of Barcelona in the field of Mobility, Maria Tsavachidis, who is the CEO of the EIT Urban Mobility, and Dr. Laia Pagès, Executive and Research Director at CARNET.

  1. How can we promote equity in mobility?

I believe that for mobility to be equitable, we must first be aware of this need and fortunately, this awareness is growing. There are many associations involved, and there is an interest on the part of all stakeholders, from research hubs to the administration and from private companies to citizens, in improving the current situation. We need campaigns promoting equity in mobility and we must encourage young females to join the sector. However, now it is also necessary to getting down to business. We need data disaggregated by gender, we must design the transportation offer using models that allow differentiating different profiles, etc. And a societal switch must accompany these focused changes. There is still much to do, but we are on the right way.